Professional & Graduate Studies

How to Hire and Retain Top Graduate Talent

June 23, 2014

When hiring for a position at your company, you probably have a checklist of what you look for in a recent graduate and potential employee: smart, hard-working, effective. And now, you might want to add “engaged” to that list. A recent Gallup study shows many eye-opening correlations between engaged students and engaged employees, with findings suggesting that engaged employees have a more positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

As our infographic below shows, to identify top talent in recent graduates, first take a good, hard look at their résumés. Start with where they went to college—while it doesn’t matter if the college was public or private, research shows that for-profit college grads are 10% less engaged than the average graduate. Also, see if they held an internship during college. Graduates who held a job or an internship that helped them apply what they learned in school are twice as likely to be engaged at work. Finally, notice their extracurricular activities. The 20% of graduates who were in extremely active in extracurricular activities are 1.8 times more likely to be engaged at work. In their interview, you might also ask if there was a professor or mentor they looked up to during school—the odds of being engaged at work more than double if the candidate was involved with a professor who cared about them, fostered their enthusiasm for learning, and encouraged them to follow their dreams.

How to Hire and Retain Top Graduate Talent infographic


While “employee engagement” sounds tough to measure, research shows that it has a big impact on the company’s bottom line—companies with engaged workers report 2.5 times the revenue of competitors with low engagement. Engaged employees are committed to the organization’s success and put in the extra effort to help it succeed, while disengaged employees show up to work but are mentally checked out and do the minimum work required; disengaged employees are also 2.5 times more likely to leave their job for any increase in pay. Worst of all, actively disengaged employees act out their unhappiness at work, are difficult for coworkers to get along with, and cost businesses an estimated $450-550 billion per year in lost productivity. Some companies have resorted to creative measures to make sure they’re only retaining actively engaged employees; Amazon and Zappos, for example, even offer to pay employees to quit.

When it comes to keeping your talented graduates and employees engaged, leadership and feedback are two crucial factors. 80% of employees who are dissatisfied with their direct manager are disengaged, and 70% of employees who lack confidence in senior leadership are disengaged. Meanwhile, 54% of employees who report pride in their company are engaged.

Regarding feedback, a stunning 98% of employees who receive little to no feedback are disengaged. There appears to be a disconnect between what managers and workers consider to be enough feedback; 58% of managers say they feel they give enough feedback, while 65% of workers say that they want more feedback. Employees who receive feedback focusing on weaknesses are 20 times more likely to be engaged, while employees who get feedback focusing on strengths are 30 times more likely to be engaged.

Identifying and nurturing engagement in top graduate prospects may seem like a daunting task, but the benefits it provides to your company are well worth the effort. By actively looking for engagement in potential candidates’ interviews and résumés, you can help your company invest in a devoted employee who’s ready to be an asset to your company for the long haul. 

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